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King Charles and Queen Camilla's love story: from that chance meeting at the polo to their eventual marriage

The royals met 35 years before their intimate wedding in 2005

Ainhoa Barcelona
Content Managing Editor
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King Charles III and his wife Queen Camilla's path to marriage may have not been easy, but they say the course of true love never did run smooth.

Regardless of the royal couple's feelings for each other, it took the public years to accept Camilla as Charles' new girlfriend and then wife in 2005, following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales

However, over the decades, fans have warmed to the Queen and credit her for supporting the King, which has become wholly apparent in recent weeks as Camilla continues to hold the royal fort and care for her husband while he receives treatment for cancer.

King Charles spotted for first time since cancer diagnosis:

"They're yin and yang, really, they really are polar opposites, but I think it works brilliantly," Camilla's sister Annabel Elliot said in Robert Hardman's BBC documentary, Charles III: The Coronation Year. "She is his rock and I can't actually emphasise that enough. She's somebody who is completely loyal." 

In Charles' first speech as monarch in September 2022, he also reiterated: "I count on the loving help of my darling wife, Camilla. In recognition of her own loyal public service since our marriage 17 years ago, she becomes my Queen Consort. I know she will bring to the demands of her new role the steadfast devotion to duty on which I have come to rely so much."

As Camilla remains at Charles' side throughout his cancer treatment, we're taking a look back at their enduring love story.

When did Charles and Camilla first meet?

A chance meeting at a polo match in 1970 marked the beginning of Camilla Shand's relationship with Prince Charles. The two – both then aged 23 – began dating, but their romance cooled when the King-to-be was called away on naval duties overseas. 

A young Charles and Camilla at a polo match© Getty Images
Charles and Camilla met at a polo match

Charles didn't ask his girlfriend to wait for him to return from his time in service, and she went on to marry – and have two children – with another long-standing admirer, Andrew Parker Bowles. 

The two remained friends, however. Charles was made godfather to Camilla's son Tom, born in 1975, and continued to see his former girlfriend and her new husband on the social scene and at their old meeting ground – the polo circuit.

As Camilla got settled into family life, Charles found love again with Lady Diana Spencer, whom he went on to marry in July 1981.

Charles and Diana with family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace following their wedding© Getty Images
Charles and Diana married in 1981

However, eventually both of their marriages fell into difficulty. Camilla divorced in 1995, and Charles got divorced from Diana the year after. There was controversy when Charles admitted he had committed adultery with Camilla while still married to Diana, but she chose to remain silent on the subject.

When did Charles and Camilla get engaged?

After the tragic death of Princess Diana in 1997, the two kept their blossoming relationship low-key. However, they made their first public appearance together in 1999, at a party at the Ritz Hotel in London. 

Charles and Camilla leave the Ritz in 1999© Getty Images
Charles and Camilla leave the Ritz in 1999

'Operation Ritz' – as it was dubbed at the time – was orchestrated by the royal's spin doctor, Mark Bolland. Mark was tasked with presenting Charles and Camilla to the world and persuading the public to accept them as a couple. From then on, Camilla made more and more high-profile appearances alongside Charles.

In 2002, it became evident that the royal couple were ready to move further into the spotlight when the first picture emerged of them holding hands. In April of that year, Camilla attended the Queen Mother's funeral alongside her now public partner, Charles.

Then in August 2003, the couple were announced to be moving into Clarence House together. Three years later came the news many royal watchers had been waiting for: Charles and Camilla were engaged to be married. 

Charles and Camilla laughing and smiling outside Clarence House© Getty Images
The pair hosted many events at Clarence House over the years

On 10 February 2005, Charles and his future wife revealed the news and Camilla walked out in front of reporters at a London event that evening with a unique art deco style ring worn on her left hand. The family heirloom was reportedly given to the Queen Mother in 1926 on the occasion of the birth of her daughter, Queen Elizabeth.

Camilla smiling and showing off her ring in February 2005© Getty Images
Camilla showing off her ring in February 2005

When did Charles and Camilla get married?

Charles and Camilla tied the knot on 9 April 2005 in a civil ceremony that was held at Windsor Guildhall. The couple's immense joy was evident as they posed for their official wedding photos. 

Charles and Camilla at Windsor following their wedding© Getty Images
Charles and Camilla at Windsor following their wedding

The bride was elegant in a Philip Treacy hat and full-length porcelain blue silk Robinson Valentine dress with a hand-painted ikat design, hand-embroidered with gold threadwork. During the wedding toast, guests reported that Charles shouted "I love Camilla" as he raised his glass.

Following their wedding, the Queen Consort has been credited with bringing a joie de vivre to the couple's shared life. And never is that so evident than during their public engagements, when a shared laugh never seems to be far away.

What is Camilla's relationship with Prince William and Prince Harry?

During her time with Charles, Camilla became an integral part of the lives of his sons Princes William and Harry. She was there in 2008 to watch proudly as William was invested with the Order of the Garter. 

"We are very grateful for her. She's made our father very happy," Prince Harry has previously said of his stepmother, admitting that he and William "love her to bits" and that she isn't the "wicked stepmother". 

Prince Charles and Camilla's wedding with Harry and William© Pool
Harry admitted that he and William asked their father not to marry Camilla

However, in his memoir Spare published in 2023, Harry also revealed that the two brothers were opposed to Charles marrying Camilla as they felt it was one step too far. Harry also claimed that Camilla converted his bedroom at Clarence House into her personal dressing room when he moved out.

The Duke also made clear his feelings that Charles and Camilla's spin doctor had leaked negative stories to the press about him, such as his drug use, in order to garner sympathy for Charles as a father. Speaking on Good Morning America, he admitted: "She's my stepmother. I don't look at her as an evil stepmother. I see someone who married into this institution and has done everything that she can to improve her own reputation and her own image for her own sake."

How long have Charles and Camilla been married?

The King and Queen will celebrate their 19th wedding anniversary in April this year.

Since their marriage, Camilla has taken on an increasingly prominent public role and is a constant presence on royal tours and trips abroad. 

In Camilla, Charles has found his soulmate and equal. A witty and intelligent woman, she shares his love of outdoor life and never fails to bring a smile to his face. As his treatment for cancer continues and Charles postpones his public-facing engagements, we'll be seeing a lot more of Camilla in the coming months.


Princess Kate wearing black and white polka dots and a hat

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